An August Tale
Going back and forth on the internet I accidently came across a Granada TV production on Augustus. It was produced in 1968 just before the international attention of ‘I, Claudius.’ If you ever been a fan of public television you will recognize quite a few actors on this show. It is black and white (which somehow adds to the story), looks like a stage production, but the writing is thoughtful and insightful. Good writing is good writing whether in Homer’s time, your parent’ time, or NOW. There is no ‘chewing the scenery’ here. The dialogue is delivered calmly, no ‘addressing the Senate’, it is an imperial family discussion of issues and gripes they have discussed many times before.
If your are put off by the fact it was filmed in 1968 I find that a little ridiculous considering we are talking about an event in 19 August AD 14 b.c. Watch it…it is outstanding television. Now, I admit I was carried away by the death scene of Augustus. I was not able to be present when my father passed away. The scene of the death bed made me slightly emotional. Isn’t all death bed scenes of Fathers as if an Emperor is passing? The wife says her goodbyes, she strokes his arm, and whispers in his ear. The son or stepson settles regrets or questions the father’s motives or actions in life before the final goodbye. How I wish it was that way for me.
“Have I not played my part well?” Says Augustus before he dies and then asking for applause. I have a hard time with what happened next, the room of mourners actually applauds. I somehow think it was a rhetorical question, but who knows when you deal with a man that possessed ‘absolute’ power.
Augustus is played by Roland Culver (a man with a very impressive movie career). If you see him you will recognize him, and he has a most distinctive voice. He makes a fascinating Augustus. Was it from the fact he was playing Augustus? There should be more parts for old men that denote who they are and what they were in their youth. This part did just that. There should be more parts for old men that denote ‘gravitas.’
His son is Michael Culver. by the way. (Captain Needa. Star Wars?). Let’s see how good a Star Wars Fan you are.
It was a little confusing for the show opening up with Culver (i.e. Augustus) sitting on the steps of a temple with his handout like a beggar. I was trying to figure out who he was and started to pick it out when a slightly humped over guy with a stutter asked: “Unc…Unc…Uncle, why are you asking for money?” OH, Claudius! That’s who the beggar is…AUGUSTUS! It was a nice opening and the reason was a dream. Don’t we all do what we see in our dreams? Well, especially in ancient Rome. At a dinner party later Claudius pulls out a coin and tries to give it to Augustus. The first citizen waves it away, “…I turn back into an emperor, after five,” he says.
And Tiberius is played by Andre Morell. I have to tell you this was the far greater part, and I don’t think I ever seen where so much effort had been put into writing diagolue for this particular Roman Emperor. The language was witty, urbane, intellectual and thought provoking. Morell is not new when it came to wearing armor, he played Sextus in Ben Hur and Elrond in the 1978 animated feature lord of the rings. He has a series of movies roles playing inspectors, military men, and judges. The part of Tiberius to me is his greatest role. The man is calculating, and walks through life with a philosophy of “I don’t control events” which makes me wonder if the scriptwriter was trying to make Tiberius a proponent of the Stoic philosophy.
Meaning I found on Internet:
The Stoic ethic espouses a deterministic perspective,
: a person who accepts what happens without complaining or showing emotion
End of quote.
Before Augustus dies he cries (at least were told later) ”Forty young men are carrying me away…”
Tiberius responds, “For the sake of legend we must make it come true….no dying words?”
“No,” the servant says.
“Good,” says Tiberius. “Dying words make inconvenient quotations.”